By the 1860s the desire to look into John Donne's writings that had started in the English Romantic period had spread to the western side of the Atlantic. In Britain the revival of interest in Donne was dissipating. A lingering undercurrent of interest in Donne's poetry resurfaced when, in the period 1872-1873, the Rev Alexander B. Grosart published his two-volume edition of The Complete Poems of John Donne, D.D., Dean of St. Paul's. The edition offered an exuberant concatenation of materials. It framed them, first, in ways that entangled Donne's poetry in the contemporary debates about ‘sensuous things’ that had been newly inflected by the publication in the Contemporary Review in 1871 of R. W. Buchanan's article on Rossetti and the ‘fleshly school of poetry’. In order to gauge the broader cultural effects of the Grosart edition, it makes sense therefore to provide an account of Grosart's contributions on three specific fronts: his attempt greatly to augment the canon of Donne's poems; his use of manuscript materials as copy-texts; and his extensive glossing of words and phrases in the poems.
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